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Car fuel efficiency labels a lot of hot air

CHOICE says consumers are being taken for a ride by fuel efficiency claims

16 November 2015

Consumer advocacy group CHOICE has found that fuel efficiency claims on windshields of 53 cars sold in Australia understated their real-world performance by an average of 17%, leading to annual fuel bills hundreds of dollars higher than expected.

The analysis comes as the VW emissions scandal widens to petrol engines, with claims that its so-called 'defeat devices' were also installed on larger 3.0 litre diesel engines in luxury Audis and Porsches.[1]

The federal government has also announced a review of vehicle emissions and fuel efficiency standards, although it won't produce a draft implementation plan until March 2017.[2]

"We looked at the results of 200 independent laboratory tests conducted by our UK consumer counterpart, Which?, and found 53 of these vehicles are sold in the Australian market," says Matt Levey, CHOICE director of campaigns and communications

"The failure rate was 100% – not a single one of the 53 vehicles sold in Australia could equal the manufacturer's claimed fuel efficiency. This includes some of the world's biggest brands, such as BMW, Mitsubishi, Renault and Jeep.

"Petrol and diesel models used an average of 14.3% more fuel per 100km than manufacturers claimed. Hybrid models consumed an average of 33.3% more than claimed.

"These differences add up to hundreds of dollars more in annual fuel bills than consumers are led to believe from fuel consumption labels in the showroom," Mr Levey says.

The results are based on independent laboratory testing from Which?, using a method that more accurately simulates real-world driving conditions compared to the tests currently carried out by the auto industry.[3]

CHOICE says the discrepancies show an urgent need to update the process used for testing cars sold in Australia so that consumers can have confidence in manufacturers' claims.

"With the cost of fuel consistently one of the biggest household cost-of-living concerns over the past six quarters, consumers should be able to trust that the fuel consumption advertised in the showroom will be accurate, as this impacts their weekly budget," Mr Levey says.

"CHOICE is calling on the federal government to ensure Australia adopts more realistic fuel testing procedures as soon as possible.

"While a new testing procedure is nearing agreement internationally, it has been in the works since 2007, and Australia's record in adopting fuel efficiency measures is appalling.

"For example, we remain the only major advanced economy to have no mandatory standards for vehicle fuel efficiency or greenhouse gas emissions. As a result, Australians have less access to fuel-efficient vehicles and pay more in fuel costs.

"The fuel efficiency gap is not consistent between models and there is also evidence it has been growing over time. That puts Australians shopping for new vehicles in an absurd situation where they're confronted with labels that bear no relation to reality," Mr Levey says.

CHOICE is calling on the federal government to accelerate the adoption of compulsory vehicle fuel efficiency standards and close the gap between manufacturer's claims and real world performance as part of its Come Clean campaign.

Worst performers by class




[1] CHOICE, 'VW Scandal Widens', 5 November 2015, accessible at https://www.choice.com.au/transport/cars/general/articles/vw-pollution-cheating-scandal
[2] 'Turnbull Government to Review Approach to Vehicle Emissions', 31 October 2015
[3] See Which?, 'How we test mpg', accessible at http://www.which.co.uk/cars/choosing-a-car/how-we-test-cars/how-we-test-mpg/

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